Children are rarely included in municipal planning. That’s unfortunate, because place-making plays an important role in healthy development throughout childhood.
Municipal planning is about shaping the future and children have the largest stake in the future. By the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, they have the right to have their voices heard in all matters affecting them, including municipal government.
This project used “participatory photography” a study abroad studio of environmental design students. It aimed to involve children in the master planning of Yali, a new municipality in a fast-growing tourism region of southwestern Turkey, the Bodrum Peninsula.
To build a basis for making plans, we asked 24 children from elementary and middle schools to use photography to help identify those attributes that make a place special—and thus loved and cared for. In two workshops, we displayed their photographs and stories, as well as our own analyses. With an audience of local residents, professionals and city officials, we used their photographs to illustrate our recommendations for regional and local land use, as well as economic development policies.
Here’s what we learned from the children: New parks, ball-fields and Internet cafes are great, but nothing provides as much joy and satisfaction as wild places and the chance to cultivate the earth, play under great trees and mess with junk.
In our recommendations, we pointed out that the same principles that guide sustainable development also ensure that future generations will enjoy the environment that Yali offers its children today. We linked our policy, planning and regulatory proposals to these principles and to the places and characteristics children showed in their photos. These images, which featured explicit and concrete references to specific places, structures, and landscapes, helped the audience connect with our proposals. In fact, the lens of childhood provided the most effective support for our recommendations.
An article describing this project was published in Participatory Learning and Action, number 52, pp. 27-36, August 2005.
For more information, contact Fahriye Sancar: sancar@spot.Colorado.EDU